The Hacker: Can't kerb my enthusiasm but my game is really going backwards

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The Independent Online

Embarrassing moments on a golf course occur so frequently in a hacker's life that you develop a thick skin, but armour plating would be needed not to shudder at what happened to me last Wednesday.

It would have been bad enough in the relative privacy of my own club, but as fate would have it I was in the majestic surroundings of Wentworth, one of the nation's most prestigious golf venues.

The occasion was the annual championship of the Association of Golf Writers, an event which for many years has been generously hosted bythe Wentworth club.

As is traditional, we were joined in our game by Wentworth's genial managing director, Julian Small, and a number of executives from the European Tour, whose headquarters are on the complex.

These included the director of operations, David Garland, the chief referee, John Paramor, and their Ryder Cup director, Richard Hills, who was playing in the group behind.

We play the East Course, which is not quite as awe-inspiring as the more famous West Course but a great track nevertheless, beautifully traced through the trees.

Adding to the grandeur that morning was the unexpected arrival of the sun, a bloody nuisance on some holes but casting a superb sheen on the proceedings. Needless to say, it was neither the situation nor the gathering which called for a bad shot off the first tee.

Since I had had a lesson the previous day and was feeling confident, I was dismayed when I pulled the ball low to the left and watched it hop over a path and disappear into the undergrowth.

Luckily, I found it and took a drop. I selected a seven-iron and can only blame the bright sun for blinding me to a rough-hewn kerbstone a yard in front. I gave the ball a healthy thwack and caught the stone full in the middle. Had the rebound hit me between the eyes it could have been fatal.

That would have been the more merciful outcome, because it flashed past and headed at full force back towards the tee where the next four were waiting.

I hesitated to shout "Fore" because, as the word suggests, it is what you use when people are in front of you. What warning do you yell when they're behind you?

Thankfully, the ball travelled over 100 yards before stopping short of them.

My return was not the most comfortable journey I've ever taken but I have to praise those on the tee for their restraint. However, when people are fighting to control convulsions of laughter you can feel the strain in the air. I took a furtive glance and they were all thoughtfully looking away as I played my fourth shot 10 yards in front of where I'd played my first.

Luckily, it flew straight and long, but the damage to my confidence was irreparable and I amassed no more than 17 points, which, I'm glad to say, was not the lowest of the day.

In the bar afterwards, one of the witnesses to my shame, Richard Hills, congratulated me on the way I'd positioned my third shot into the middle of the fairway. The fact that it was 120 yards behind me was a mere detail, he said.